Your landlord may claim that you abandoned the apartment. If your things are there and you did not tell the landlord you are leaving, then you did not abandon the apartment. The landlord must file an eviction case in court before moving your things or changing the locks.
You might have the right to be let in the property even if you never moved in. If you signed a lease and gave money to the landlord for rent or a security deposit, the landlord must let you move into the property on the date the lease starts. If the landlord refuses to let you in, you have the right to start a lockout action and be let into the property.
Even people who live in temporary housing can’t be locked out. You have the right not to be locked out of your home even if your home is in an assisted living building, a sober house, some homeless shelters, and other types of housing. The landlords who run buildings like these might say they can make you leave without going through an eviction. They are wrong. Even if you live in temporary housing, you have the rights in this fact sheet. You can ask the court to order the sheriff to help you get back in right away. If you aren’t sure if your temporary housing is protected from lock-outs, contact your legal aid office right away.
You can also ask the court to set a hearing to decide if the landlord should pay you money (damages) for locking you out. The court should sign an order for you to take to the sheriff. The sheriff can let you back in, even if they have to break in.
Your damages are the money you lost or had to spend because of the lock-out. Tell the court about any damaged property, missed work, missed appointments, motel bills, gas and food expenses, or other costs. Keep receipts and bring them to court.
You can also get triple damages (3 times your damages), or $500, whichever is more, plus attorney’s fees, if:
- The landlord shuts off your electricity, water, heat, or gas AND you told the landlord about it, but the landlord did not try to get your utilities turned back on within a reasonable time.
- The landlord acted in “bad faith.” Bad faith usually means lying, cheating, or knowing that something is wrong but doing it anyway.
If you win money damages, ask the court to let you collect it by taking it off your rent. Get a copy of the order. If your landlord files an eviction case against you for unpaid rent, show the judge the lockout case order.